Party is keeping a line of talks open with fledgling SDPI in Dakshina Kannada

It’s been a decade since the last Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] candidate stood for elections from the district, and with the party grappling with leadership issues and waning influence, the wait will be at least five years more.

For the second consecutive elections, the party has decided against fielding a candidate here.

CPI(M)’s no deal

Until last week, the district unit of the party was optimistic of an alliance with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Meanwhile, they had shortlisted three names – the former minister Amarnath Shetty, State committee member Haider Partipady and JD(S) District president M.B. Sadashiva – as a “back-up”.

However, after talks between the parties at the State-level failed, the party decided against contesting.

While Mr. Sadashiva called it the “reality of politics”, Mr. Shetty said a “right candidate” could not be found.

Both, however, said they did not harbour any illusions of winning the constituency.

SDPI hope

However, on Sunday, the party was asked to keep a line of talks open with the fledgling Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).

Sources told The Hindu that this was prompted by “efforts” to bring the former Union Minister Jaffer Sharief, who quit Congress over denial of a ticket, into the JD(S) fold.

“If he does agree to contest from Mysore, we will seek SDPI support there; while offering support in Bangalore and Dakshina Kannada constituencies,” said a senior JD(S) leader.

While support for the SDPI has been “more or less confirmed”, the local unit is awaiting clarification from the high command to define “support” as being tacit or for open canvassing.

Waning leadership

Since its formation in 1999, the party has struggled to get a toehold in the district. Its peak was in 2004 Assembly elections when K. Vasanth Bangera and Mr. Shetty gave a close fight in Belthangady and Moodbidri constituencies. Since then, its voter base has steadily declined here, while Mr. Bangera left the party to join the Congress.

Desertions

In the past decade, the party has seen near mass desertion of senior-level and mid-level leadership. While long-serving district president K.B. Balraj Rai left in 2008, numerous members jumped ship before the previous assembly elections.

In December 2012, Yogish Shetty Jeppu, vice president of the students wing, J. Ibrahim, district vice president and four other functionaries left the party. Later, in March 2013, the party lost State vice president and the former minister Nagaraj Shetty, State Secretary M.G. Hegde and 10 others in the span of a week. A month later, two more local leaders resigned.

“There is a big leadership problem here, and we have to start anew from the Panchayati level,” said Mr. Shetty.

Keeping the focus on long-term growth, Mr. Sadashiva said the aim was to strengthen the cadre-level. “The Lok Sabha elections are too near for us to do anything here. Instead, we will try to win back loyalists, who have remained indifferent or neutral to JD(S). We have to build their confidence over time,” he said.